If one thing is certain in the Big 12 conference, it’s that nobody gets a break.
No. 11 West Virginia pulled off the upset over the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks on Tuesday night proving to the world that they’re up to something.
Unfortunately, the celebration is brief. For now.
Just four days later, the Mountaineers head to Norman, Oklahoma to face the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners, a team that nearly rattled Kansas in double-overtime just a few weeks ago.
“This league is the hardest league that West Virginia basketball has ever been in or ever will be in,” said Bob Huggins. “We played No. 1 today (Tuesday) then we gotta go play No. 2 on Saturday… I mean, every game is just… There are 14 more games left to play in the league. 14 hard, hard games.”
In the most current rankings, West Virginia (4-0) is the outright leader of the Big 12 conference standings. But, like always, the Mountaineers are underdogs still trying to prove to non-believers that they’re worthy of a top 10, and maybe even a top five, spot in the AP Coaches Poll.
“It’s a start. It’s definitely a start,” said Devin Williams, in reference to his team topping the conference charts for the first time since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012. “We can’t say we havn’t worked for it. It was a fight from Virginia Tech to Kansas. We just stayed tough… It was a whole team effort. It was a whole team effort.”
Williams obtained a double-double against the Jayhawks, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. According to him, the same kind of preparation and execution is the key to beating Oklahoma, too.
“We’re just gonna prepare the same way,” he said. “Just focusing from down in and understanding that it’s another big week, you know, just to take it home and prove that West Virginia is here as a team. We just give a team effort, wherever, whoever, we just give a team effort. It’s no one in the country that can stop us as a team.”
Speaking of team effort, three Mountaineers scored in double figures including Williams, Jaysean Paige (who led the team with 26 points), and Jevon Carter who added 10.
Jonathan Holton also played a role, snagging eight rebounds. The senior credits his coach with constructing not only a winning moral, but a winning environment for his players to be successful especially in large scale games.
“No one really gave us credit about being the better team,” Holton said during his post-game interview. “But we got a very, very, very great coach. Our coach is one of a kind. He’s gonna keep you motivated and he’s gonna make you work hard. He’s gonna make you. It’s not an option anymore. As soon as you step foot on this floor, you’re gonna give it your all cause you don’t wanna let your teammates down.”
When all is said and done, after defeating the No. 1 team in the country for the first time in decades (33 years to be exact), the Mountaineers now know what’s at stake.
“Now we got a target on our backs,” said Jevon Carter. “Teams are gonna be coming at us and we know every punch they give us, we gotta come with a counter move. We can’t just let them hit us with that knockout punch. We gotta keep coming with a counter, and I think we will.”
Meanwhile, the more reserved Bob Huggins will assume his role of making sure no one gets caught up in the heat of a winning moment, and instead, focuses on what’s to come in the very near future.
“They get a day off and then we go back to work on Thursday and Friday we get on a plane and go to Norman and play the second ranked team in the country who took these guys (Kansas) to double-overtime in Lawrence,” said Huggins. “We can’t get too low, we can’t get too high. Nothing’s ever as good as you think it is and nothing’s ever as bad as you think it is… It doesn’t get any easier.”
And with that, you can expect Press Virginia will be ready to roll come Saturday.
Cover image credit: wvusports.com